University of Twente Student Theses


Gender Bias in English and German Children’s Literature: A Computational Analysis Using Word Embeddings

Geißler, Dominique (2021) Gender Bias in English and German Children’s Literature: A Computational Analysis Using Word Embeddings.

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Abstract:Gender inequality is a general problem across all societies. Women and girls face discrimination and are underrepresented at all levels of political and economic participation. However, the structural disadvantaging of women and girls is unconnected to physical variation and is instead culturally channelled. Children learn gender roles through sexrole socialisation, the practice of teaching the appropriate behaviours for the sexes. Books play an important role in this as they teach children what the world outside of their environment looks like. Researchers in the area of social science have conducted a thorough analysis of gender bias in children’s literature, however, computational efforts to study gender bias in children’s books, in particular, are missing. Hence, the research question is: To what extent can language models be used to examine gender bias in children’s books across time and culture? To fill this research gap, the research leverages the characteristics of word embeddings to examine gender bias computationally. Four language models are trained: two English and two German models trained on fulltext books and book descriptions. The research question is answered in four steps. First, the potential of current methods to find gender bias in children’s literature is established. Second, methods are tailored to children’s books to account for the difference in language use. Third, the methods are used to examine change in gender bias over time. Fourth, a crosscultural approach is being taken where the results of English language models are compared to German ones. The research finds that English children’s books have a limited view on females, confining them to being nurturing and caring as well as reducing them to their appearance. Males, in return, are characterised by diversity, allowing boys more freedom in their personal development. Over time, gender bias has changed mostly in the reduced association of males with the military. Across culture, many differences between English and German children’s books are found, with the latter containing much less stereotypical ideas. The research contributes academically by computationally confirming social science findings and increasing generalisability. In the practical sphere, the research can sensitise parents and educators to gender bias and help them to be more selective in the readings they provide to their children.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:EEMCS: Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science
Subject:02 science and culture in general, 10 humanities in general, 17 linguistics and theory of literature, 18 languages and literature, 50 technical science in general, 54 computer science, 70 social sciences in general
Programme:Interaction Technology MSc (60030)
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